Luis Díaz and Luis Suárez witnessed Darwin Núñez coming of age and Liverpool can learn from it

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Not many people were there to witness it when Darwin Núñez notched his first competitive international goal for Uruguay. Scored in November 2020, it came against a supporterless pandemic backdrop. But two people who did have front-row seats were Luis Díaz and Luis Suárez: the representatives of Liverpool past and present will now be confident that the club’s future is in good hands.

The goal came against Colombia, hence why Díaz was on hand to see it. Uruguay had made a mixed start to the World Cup qualifiers, edging past Chile with a stoppage time winner but losing 4-2 to Ecuador. Their opponents, meanwhile, were unbeaten, having recorded a win and a draw in their first two games.

Even at this early stage, this was a crucial match in the notoriously competitive arena of South American qualifying for the World Cup. For proof, just look at the final table: had Díaz and his side triumphed over Núñez and co, Uruguay would be missing out on the tournament in Qatar, and Colombia would be a play-off against Australia away from the main event.

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Instead, it was Uruguay who came out on top, ultimately emerging as 3-0 victors. But this scoreline only tells a fraction of the story: Colombia had more shots, more of the ball, and more of just about every statistic except goals.

As such, perhaps this was one of the occasions where the cliche rang true: 2-0 might well have been a dangerous lead when Suárez tucked away his penalty kick. Pull one back, and Colombia might have been able to turn their dominance into more goals. Instead, Núñez crushed all hopes of a comeback – and did so in style.

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Funnily enough, it was the kind of goal that might more readily be associated with Díaz. While Suárez had gone off by this point, Núñez was still sharing the pitch with Edinson Cavani; he duly had to yield the center-forward berth, instead playing off the left. From here, he drifted inside, and unleashed a rocket of a shot from well outside the penalty area.

While positional versatility is surely one thing Liverpool like about Núñez, his unerring accuracy is certainly another. The Uruguayan, as he always seems to do, picked out the corner: the ball flew past David Ospina, beaten for both power and precision despite having plenty of time to see it. On the bench, Suárez himself would have been proud of it.

Liverpool should not necessarily get used to long-range spectaculars. Núñez has made poaching his stock-in-trade, and his biggest asset is his reliability when it comes to putting away big chances. But in him and Díaz, Jürgen Klopp will soon have two players who are not averse to having a go from distance, and who certainly have the talent to hit the back of the net. With opponents routinely willing to drop deep, it’s a useful weapon to have.

Oddly enough, this is still the only competitive goal Núñez has scored for Uruguay to date. Should that be a concern for Liverpool? On the whole, probably not. Despite their veteran status, Suárez and Cavani were still the main men for the national side until very recently. Arguably, they still enjoy that status. Conditions have not been ripe for the Benfica man to take the international stage by the scruff of its neck.

In any case, the goal against Colombia was really just a sneak preview of what was to come. Núñez had a relatively slow 2020/21 at club level – it was the following campaign where he truly burst into life. There have been precious few opportunities for the striker to prove himself for his country since hitting his rich scoring form.

Klopp will be further reassured by Núñez’s enviable big-game record. Quite apart from putting Liverpool to the sword over two legs in the Champions League, the 22-year-old boasts goals against Barcelona, ​​Bayern Munich and all of the perennial contenders in the Portuguese top flight.

At such a young age, Núñez has plenty of time to add to his international tally. But his initial coming of age in a Uruguay shirt offers plenty of promising signs to Liverpool: just ask Luis Díaz and Luis Suárez.

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